Sylvia Kampshoff is the founder of Kanthaka, a fitness app that provides users to book a trainer anytime and anywhere. We have talked with her about women entrepreneurs, their struggles and challenges when getting funding, Kanthaka’s Republic campaign and some advices to minority entrepreneurs.
IN: How has been the journey since you founded Kanthaka in 2016?
Super exciting, and I have been able to learn so much. Zero regrets. The whole community in Texas has also been amazing and supportive. You know people say that raising funds as a woman is difficult, but in my experience, there are a lot of Angels and funds who love to support women and great founders in general.
IN: So, you didn’t face extra challenges you raise capital for being a women entrepreneur?
I think that when you show a lot of growth and traction, it isn’t an issue being a woman. Nevertheless, the research shows that only 2% of females get investment. So, women do find it harder to start their businesses, it is a harsh reality. We need to keep pushing because there are companies that have extreme potential to get VC investments, but the stereotype of being a woman still plays a major role.
In my case, when I meet up with investors, I’m optimistic, and I don’t get the feeling that being a woman is a disadvantage. I think that it is because I have a strong background in law and private equity what most men can relate with. I’m also confident in my abilities and what we are building and that surely helps.
IN: How can we change this situation? How do you think that women can get venture capitalists interested in them?
Investing in minorities is fundamental. There are female investors that helped Kanthaka, and doing the same for other businesses is the way to go. Women must prove society wrong and show that we can create great businesses and attract potential investors the same way men can by showing the even better and stronger numbers and growth. At the end your numbers rule. I don’t want an investor to invest in Kanthaka because I am a woman but because it’s a high potential startup.
In: At baMa we have #changingthecolorsofinvestment, a campaign that highlights the importance of having a more inclusive innovation ecosystem, do you believe in the importance of diverse founders and minority-servicing start-ups?
Without a doubt, 100%. We are currently missing out on so much great potential and BaMa will help change that.
IN: With many free fitness apps. How does Kanthaka stand out?
It has always been a crowded space, and more since 2020 where gyms closed, and home sport increased. Kanthaka is different because we offer a trustworthy trainer that goes to our clients homes. Our client is 30+, and they don’t want a pre-recorded video in order to train. They want accountability and a person that they can actually talk with. We give them a service that makes it possible to stay in a healthy routine and to work out at the convenience of their home. In the upcoming months, we will start upselling nutrition and apparel, to provide the full package to live happier, longer and healthier.
IN: At Kanthaka you are launching a crowdfunding campaign next week, can you tell us more about your Republic campaign.
Great question, yes, I am super excited about our Republic crowdfunding campaign. They only accept less than 1% of the companies who apply and I feel very lucky they chose us. We launched some days ago and already oversubscribed our minimum investment amount by 152%. I just love the idea that now our amazing users can join our journey to revolutionize the fitness space together. Join us!
IN: What have you learnt over your fundraising period?
Fundraising is the art of storytelling. As a founder you can make the company better from the feedback that you get from [business] angels and venture capitalists. Working with VCs and accepting their feedbacks helps getting a clearer vision because they have more experience of what is scalable, what has high growth potential, and what they want to see around in the future.
IN: Would you have done anything different?
There is fundamentally one lesson that I’ve learned: female founders need to go straight to the point and ask the investors for the check. When I started, I had angels that showed interest, but in fact they weren’t interested in investing. They wanted to keep talking and meeting up with me, and I was too scared to ask for the check.
I was bad at asking for money. Now I pitch them once, they have the chance to review everything, they know we have a lot of investors on board, and I send all the due diligence materials. They know the terms and I pop the big question. I don’t play around anymore.
IN: That way of proceeding is something you have learned with experience over the years.
At the beginning you feel like angels and VCs are doing you a favour, and they are not. They have the option of being part of something big if they don’t want to, that’s fine. It took me forever to ask for money. We need to get used to doing that, and to have a really good story to sell the product.
IN: Can you give any advices on how to scale up a business?
If you are thinking of building up a start-up or a business with high growth potential, talk to investors early. They will be the first believers so give them a great valuation in order to get the funds to grow. From investors, you will get money, advice and connections. It is important to find that first person that will open the doors to other people. In sum, spend significant time with that to allow you to focus on your business.
IN: What can you say to other people that may be wanting to start a new business but are afraid to do so?
Yes, it is scary at the beginning. I would say, go for it, don’t be scared. Don’t expect an incredible growth from the beginning. It will not be that all the sudden you will have thousands of customers. You grow with it. Get out there, speak with as many entrepreneurs and mentors as possible that give you confidence. In addition, for me, having a team is crucial. My biggest mistake was thinking that the moment I put Kanthaka in the app store that it would go crazy. If things were so simple, everyone would be doing it, so you need your time to grow with it.
IN: Would you recommend baMa to other companies to become part of our portfolio?
Of course, Maria is an absolutely amazing woman and friend and building something great that is really important for the whole ecosystem to start focusing more on minorities.
IN: would you recommend baMa to any other founder?
I definitely do. BaMa is so important for the Texas ecosystem and I can only highly recommend it. BaMa under the lead of Maria Maso will achieve great things.
About Sylvia Kampshoff and Kanthaka: Sylvia Kampshoff is the founder and CEO from Kanthaka. She founded Kanthaka to serve a horribly underserved demographic. Through the app or webpage you can book a trainer anytime and anywhere and you can practice yoga, general training or virtual training at the convenience of your home (live virtual or one on one at home). .
About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.
Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa